Romania: No-confidence vote stalled, political crisis grows

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s governing National Liberal Party on Thursday blocked — with the help of an opposition party — a no-confidence motion brought by a former coalition partner, capping a week of political turmoil in the Eastern European country.

The crisis began last week after Liberal Prime Minister Florin Citu sacked Justice Minister Stelian Ion — a member of the USR-Plus junior coalition partner — for not approving a 10-billion-euro ($12 billion) regional infrastructure development program.

USR-Plus withdrew support for Citu and tabled a no-confidence motion — with the support of the far-right AUR party — against him.

The center-right Liberals abstained from Thursday’s vote in parliament along with the opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD), which meant that a reading of the procedure could go ahead but not the actual vote, as there wasn’t a quorum.

Citu also challenged on Wednesday the legality of the motion against him with the Constitutional Court on a technicality, and is pushing to block the vote until after the court’s ruling.

All six USR-Plus ministers resigned Tuesday and their resignations were accepted by President Klaus Iohannis Wednesday. Interim ministers have been appointed.

The Liberals are set to hold an internal party leadership election later this month, which Radu Magdin, a political analyst at Bucharest-based Smartlink Communications, believes is behind Citu’s move to stall the vote.

“Citu is afraid that the no-confidence vote would force the PSD to join USR-Plus and AUR and vote against the government,” he told The Associated Press. “This way, the Citu cabinet would very likely lose the confidence of parliament.”

PSD’s interest, Magdin says, is to “prolong the political life of Citu’s Liberals” for some time.

“Rising prices of utility bills will make this winter one of discontent … (and) without controlling the resources of the government, Citu would lose the race for PNL leadership,” he said.

USR-Plus had expressed concerns over the transparency of how the regional development funds, which would give power to local authorities, would be managed. In a statement last week the party said the funds could “fill the accounts of (local) barons.”

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, former prime minister and Liberal party leader Ludovic Orban said that he blames the prime minister for the current turmoil.

“He provoked this crisis, by the decision he took without my approval, and mainly the decision of choosing to dismiss the minister of justice,” he said. “A decision in which I was not consulted and I didn’t approve of.”

Orban and Citu will face off later this month in the party’s leadership elections.

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